© 2024. Randolph Hub. All Rights Reserved.


William Friedkin directs Linda Blair in ‘The Exorcist..'

Mr. Movie: William Friedkin

The genius of director William Friedkin, who died recently at 87, is sometimes overlooked. Car chases are now standard movie fare, but most could learn from this master.


He won the directing Oscar for the totally entertaining The French Connection (1971). The car chases through the New York City streets crowded with people, vehicles and elevated railway braces have never really been topped, and these were real — no computer chicanery involved. Popeye Doyle (Gene Hackman) and Cloudy Russo (Roy Scheider) are narcotics cops out to nail drug kingpin Alain Charnier (Frenando Rey). A complicated story ends with mixed results, but there’s a lot of action getting there. A sequel in 1975 isn’t bad, which I guess is damning with faint praise.


Another film showcasing William Friedkin’s skill at directing car chases is the dazzling To Live and Die In LA (1985). The highlight is a long nail-biting chase with the pursued and pursuer driving the wrong way on LA’s crowded freeways. William Petersen and Willem Dafoe portray LA cops working together but often at cross purposes. There’s also lots of gunplay, double-crosses and skulduggery.


Moving from cars to horror, William Friedkin directed the totally scary The Exorcist (1973). I watched this once, but never again! Linda Blair plays the poor possessed child Regan, Ellen Burstyn plays her totally puzzled Mom, and Max Von Sydow is the priest called in to exorcise the demon. The film was banned from many theaters, led to audience members getting ill and scared the #*^@# out of everyone.


Friedkin was actually nominated for directing, but lost to George Roy Hill for The Sting.


Fifty years ago, there were very few movies that were fair to gay men. The Boys in the Band (1970) changed that. Taken lock stock and barrel from Mart Crowley’s Off-Broadway play, it features a cast of actors you’ve probably never heard of. Okay, maybe Leonard Frey. The plot revolves around a birthday party where one of the games is to draw guys out of the closet. Friedkin’s direction is shaded and kind. This film may have altered many people’s perception of gays.


The Brink’s Job (1978) is an interesting heist movie based on true events. The robbery itself is rather straightforward and what happens after is what often happens — the gang unravels and people talk. Peter Falk, Paul Sorvino, Peter Boyle and Warren Oates portray unlikely colleagues.


Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party (1968) is dark and puzzling, but got a 78% following on Rotten Tomatoes. Robert Shaw and Patrick Magee play the same characters they played on the London stage.


All of the movies in this article are available on DVD. All are for grownups. The Exorcist may require a doctor’s note.